San Antonio Spurs: Danny Green Emerges In Increased Role

Dec 10, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (14) shoots the ball over New York Knicks center Samuel Dalembert (11) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 10, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (14) shoots the ball over New York Knicks center Samuel Dalembert (11) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the first 34 games marred by injury, the San Antonio Spurs still find themselves in a decent spot heading into the new year. They currently stand as the 7-seed in the Western Conference, but have played well when their roster is at 100 percent. Sure, they would like to finish higher in the standings, but as long as they end up in the playoffs they will have a chance to make the NBA Finals for the third season in a row.

When you look past the injury cloud, there are some positives that have emerged from this early season struggle. One in particular is the often-overlooked shooting guard, Danny Green, who has blossomed into one of the best shooters in the NBA. The 6’6″ shooter out of the University of North Carolina has had a difficult journey to where he sits today.

After being drafted in the second round of the 2009 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he struggled to find playing time. In his rookie season, he only played in 20 games and averaged 5.8 minutes per game. In that limited time, he struggled, scoring 2.0 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting, and a dismal 27.3 percent from three-point range.

Before the 2010-2011 season, the Cavaliers elected to waive Green. The Spurs then signed Green before waiving him again six days later. After being a key cog on a North Carolina team that won the 2009 National Championship, it appeared that he might not be able to stick in the NBA.

He then journeyed to the NBA Developmental League with the Reno Bighorns, before finding his way back to San Antonio. The 2011-2012 season proved to be the breakout year he needed. In 66 games he averaged 9.1 points per game while shooting a scalding 43.6 percent from outside. Green had finally found his perfect fit.

Over the next few seasons, Green thrived as a role player and three-point specialist for Spurs teams that had deep playoff runs, including the team that won the 2014 NBA Championship.

This season has seen Green take a step further in his development. He’s played 33 of 34 games, he is one of the few healthy regulars, and is averaging a career high 31.2 minutes per game. The career highs do not stop there. He also is recording the highest usage rate of his career at 17.9 percent, averaging 10.1 shot attempts per game.

The increased usage has increased his scoring to 12.5 points per game, while he’s also grabbing 4.4 rebounds, and handing out 2.1 assists per game. Green is ranked seventh in the NBA in made three-point shots this season with 81, and seventh in made three-point shots per game with 2.5. The higher volume of shooting has not harmed his efficiency. He is currently shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from three-point range with a Player Efficiency Rating of 15.73.

With injuries to Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and others a constant threat, the Spurs will lean on Green more than ever this season. It’s a comfort to know that whenever others need a break, they still have a player like Green on the floor that can change the game with his hot shooting.

Prolific three-point shooters are extremely valuable. They provide spacing and can bend defenses just with their presence. Danny Green standing in the corner with Tony Parker directing the offense makes for an extremely dangerous offensive lineup. He is the perfect fit for Gregg Popovich’s offense that places the utmost importance on spacing and ball movement.

Green’s contract is up at the end of the season, and you can bet he is going to get paid. He may not be the type of player that can garner a max contract, but he has proven he can be an important piece on a championship team.

Early struggles aside, the Spurs may still have one more championship run with the Duncan-Ginobili-Parker core. After this season, who knows what will happen. San Antonio would do well to make sure they lock up Green, along with Kawhi Leonard, as they look forward to a new era of Spurs basketball, without the likes of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

Next: Should the Spurs be Concerned?